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Gates: XML Is Heart of Next Platform

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates welcomed several thousand developers to the new world of XML, the data format at the heart of the company's next generation of products.

While Microsoft has used XML functionality in its products -- in Windows Vista and upcoming server products, formerly Longhorn -- he said, "XML is built into the core."

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, held this week here, the company will hand out over 30 gigabytes of code at the conference, including a new build of Windows Vista and previews of SQL Server and Office 12.

Gates revisited some of the functions and features of Vista that have already been demonstrated, such as anti-phishing tools in Internet Explorer 7 and integration of RSS .

Chris Capossela, a vice president in Microsoft's information worker group, demonstrated Windows Sidebar, an interface element based on RSS and DHTML that he said would be shipped with Windows Vista.

Like the Google Desktop 2, Sidebar includes separate elements that are automatically updated with information, such as news feeds, weather or digital photos. Users can select from a gallery of the mini-applications, which Microsoft calls Gadgets.

Gates said Gadgets represents a good opportunity for developers. Yahoo offers a similar array of tiny apps called Widgets, acquired with its July purchase of Konfabulator, as well as tools for developers to create them.

Windows Sideshow is a small screen on the outside of a device, which Gates previewed at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in April. Microsoft is working with hardware partners, which need to incorporate the screens.

Canon will provide a new color management system for Vista that will provide better color fidelity and screen-to-print matching for digital photos and graphics.

The Vista CTP distributed on Tuesday includes the WinFX programming model, made up of the Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly Avalon) and Windows Communication Foundation (formerly Indigo), as well as the .NET Framework, will improve the presentation and interactivity of both HTML connections and code run on the client, allowing the browser to move beyond loading Web pages to providing desktop access to applications.

Microsoft is in the early stages of developing an AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) authoring tool known as Atlas. AJAX is a development strategy that lets a Web page pull information from a server without having to reload the page.

Atlas will be a Web client framework for building AJAX applications that will be integrated with Visual Studio 2005 and ASP.NET 2.0, to make it easier to develop AJAX apps.

Next up is Longhorn Server, which is scheduled for release after Vista.

"This is where the service oriented architecture comes together in the workflow," Gates said. "We need to take the idea of integration and bring it to the server level."

He predicted that file servers would disappear as customers move to Windows Server System, sometimes with the addition of Windows SharePoint collaboration tools.

"This is how we can deal with the paradox of people wanting server systems to be simpler and more powerful at same time," he said.

Gates also referred to the company's plans to deliver its software as a service, something it has hinted at since its financial analyst meeting in July.

"We're driving the symmetry of server equals service," Gates said.

In other words, whether customers install the software on-premises or access it as a Web-based service, the experience and functionality are the same.

"Giving people a choice of on-premise or off-premise ... can be done without a discontinuity," he said.

Gates promised that Windows Vista would have the largest marketing campaign ever. More than 30 ISVs already have committed to delivering software optimized for Vista, including Avaya, Symantec and UGS, a vendor of lifecycle management software and services.

Microsoft has opened a "Digital Locker" within the Windows Marketplace, which is operated by CNET , that will let customers store the keys to the software they purchase and download so that it can be moved from one machine to another.